Email marketing is one of the top sources of revenue for marketers. It has been so for years. Presently, there are around 4 billion email users around the world. It is a vast network to market your business. The email has a broader reach and engages more conversation from the customers and helps in building better customer relationships.

With the enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), email marketing took a new turn. Marketers feared this would be the end of email marketing. However, the result was not as bad as predicted. Yes, complying with the GDPR means reviewing and revamping your business strategies. However, it is not as hard as one may think.

This article explores what changes businesses can make to achieve compliance with the GDPR and how that changes email marketing for the better.

First of all, let us see what is GDPR all about.

GDPR Compliance

GDPR was a long-awaited data protection policy in the European Union (EU). With increasing data fraud and privacy invasions, the GDPR brought new hope in securing people’s rights and freedom. The Regulation came into effect on 25 May 2018. It proposed several principles and rights that an organization must follow. The Regulation applies to any organization or individual (the data controller) regardless of their location as long as they deal with the personal data of people in the EU.

The main takeaway of the GDPR is for data controllers to legally process the data and be transparent about how they handle it and let the data subjects have control and power over it. Failure to comply will result in fines up to 20 million euros or 4% of the annual global turnover of the organization, whichever is higher.

To know more about GDPR compliance, recommend reading this article.

Post-GDPR Email Marketing 

Like already said, email marketing is an essential tool for marketers to promote and expand businesses. Before GDPR, email marketing had little to no regard for customers’ interests and the safety of their data. Marketers often send mass emails to people expecting to generate a lot of engagements. They did not take into consideration what the people would like and if they want to opt-out of it. After GDPR, they are obliged to follow rules that ensure the safety of people’s data and giving preference to their choices. Especially if you send emails to EU customers.

Let’s look at how you can make your email marketing GDPR compliant.

Review your contacts

Review your current contacts list and identify if:

  • They have actively given permission for you to use their emails.
  • Their data are still relevant to your marketing campaign.
  • You have parental consent in the case of minors.
  • The data is stored safely.

Obtaining new consent

Consent under GDPR is one of the crucial factors when it comes to data protection. Article 4 of the GDPR defines consent as:

“‘consent’ of the data subject means any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her.”

Hence, when you are seeking consent from customers to send emails, remember:

  • Pre-ticked checkboxes or soft opt-in is not valid.
  • Consent requests should be unbundled; that is, consent for different services should be asked separately.
  • Double opt-in (confirming email subscription twice), although not mandatory, is an effective way to ensure active opt-in.
  • Be clear about your purpose and how you are going to use the emails.
  • Inform them that they can withdraw their consent at any time.

Re-permission from existing customers

If the consents you obtained from the existing customers align with the standards of the GDPR, then you do not need to request re-permission to send emails to these customers. However, if you cannot identify when and how you obtained the consent, asking for it again is the safest option. If they deny or do not respond, remove them from your mailing list.

Opt-out option

Give the customers an easily accessible and straightforward option to unsubscribe from the email services. Every marketing email should include such a link so that the customers can opt-out of the services whenever they wish. It is also one of the conditions of consent under GDPR to let data subjects withdraw their consent any time they want. Withdrawing consent should be as easy as it was to give it.

Proof of consent

Details about the consent obtained – especially when, where, how – should be duly documented. It will be helpful when you have to present proof of consent in case of an audit.

Rights of customers

GDPR gives data subjects several rights that a data controller should respect. You should make sure you have appropriate measures in place to respond to customer requests and help them exercise their rights. Nothing should supersede and threat their rights and freedom. Following are the customer rights under GDPR that you should integrate into your email marketing practices:

  • Right to be informed – Customers should be informed about why, by whom, and how their data will be processed.
  • Right of access – Customers have the right to access their data.
  • Right to rectification – Customers can request to rectify their inaccurate or outdated data without delay.
  • Right to erasure (Right to be forgotten) – Customers can ask for the deletion of their data in case of withdrawal of consent, inaccuracy, unlawful processing, legal disputes, or expiration of the data retention period.
  • Right to restriction of processing – Customers can ask for restricting the processing of their data in case of withdrawal of consent, inaccuracy, unlawful processing, legal disputes, or expiration of retention period.
  • Right to data portability – Customers can request for their data to be transferred back to them or another controller.
  • Right to object – Customers can object to the data processing in case of withdrawal of consent, inaccuracy, unlawful processing, legal disputes, or expiration of data retention period.
  • Automated individual decision-making, including profiling – Customers can ask to use manual methods instead of automated machines to process their data.

Data security

Data collected should be kept safely, and appropriate technical and organizational measures, such as encryption or pseudonymization, should be adopted to safeguard the data.


GDPR compliant email marketing may result in a dip in subscription numbers. However, the customers who subscribed again, and the new customers will appreciate the secure way of marketing. An extensive list of subscribers does not ensure positive and profiting business; active and loyal customers do. Quality over quantity. Also, always keep in mind one of the golden rules of marketing – the customer is the king.